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TV Review: Why Is Hawaii Five-0 So Inexplicably Popular?

Hawaii Five-0 is one of the few network debuts to get decent ratings this fall. It’s also one of the most awesomely pointless shows I’ve ever reviewed. Nonetheless, somebody out there clearly loves this remake of the seventies cop series, the one with that earworm of a theme song and “book ‘em, Dano.”

To fill in neophytes who never saw the original: There’s one cop who goes by the book, while the other isn’t afraid to break the rules. I had trouble remembering which was which, since everyone in the ensemble is in a mysteriously lousy mood, from grim-faced Sharon from Battlestar Galactica (Grace Park) to exasperated Jin from Lost (Daniel Dae Kim). There’s also a fat sidekick to make sex jokes and an “eccentric” medical examiner. There are gun chases through greenery, corrupt CEOs, and those frustrating moments when someone can’t get a clear shot. There’s surfing and the occasional spiritual koan, for local flavor. It’s admirable that the ensemble employs so many Asian-American actors — if only they had something to do.

What's truly baffling about Hawaii 5-0 is that it doesn't even follow the formula that makes formulaic shows so much fun: banter plus sexiness. Instead, there is low-grade insult comedy (“You have aneurysm face” is the best punchline I heard, and I’m grading on a curve). The cast gamely switches from police gear into bathing suits, like birthday party strippers, but they generate zero heat. With so much frowning and rolling of eyes, watching Hawaii 5-0 feels like eavesdropping on a bunch of supermodels as they fight over the check for an hour.

“How long have you two been married?” jokes a prisoner to the two bickering partners, Dano and McGarrett (Scott Caan and Alex O'Loughlin). “Dad loved us,” says a cop to his sister. “He just didn’t know how to show it.” And so on.

But really, I could just sum it up in one line: Please watch FX’s Terriers instead.

But really, I could just sum it up in one line: Please watch FX’s Terriers instead.

Photo: Sonja Fleming/CBS